"I hear the comments," says Bailey of life in a mixed marriage.
"I hear the black women say, 'There's another one gone.' I've been treated well in Utah, but it's a colorless thing when you're a celebrity. Sindi Southwick, 6 feet tall, was a basketball player at Utah Valley State College when they met in 1989.
Sindi, like one of her brothers, was working at Bailey's basketball camps.
And there is his young family a wife and four children. You get it all with Thurl Bailey." And Bailey couldn't be happier. After all, this is a man who has compiled a list of all the people he wants to contact and thank for what they have done for him in his life. Who knew this 6-foot-11 African-American from the East Coast, who grew up in a violent household in a tough neighborhood, would wind up converting to the LDS Church, marrying a white woman and settling in Salt Lake City. Bailey, who ended his professional basketball career with an encore season in 2001, has continued life at a fast-break pace.
Sitting in his large house overlooking the south end of Salt Lake Valley, he is cuddled on a couch with his wife, Sindi, while children race through the halls. He works quietly behind the scenes doing good deeds in the community, just as the late Jim Valvano foresaw years ago.
"Every day I feel so fortunate to be where I am in my life," he says. Even before Bailey was drafted by the Utah Jazz nearly two decades ago, Valvano, Bailey's coach at North Carolina State, urged the Jazz to use their first pick on him. "As a person he will be good for the team and the community." Bailey has a foundation called Big TLC, which raises money for various charities.
(She still holds the school high jump record of 5-foot-4.) She was used to climbing on a horse in the wee hours to drive cattle up to the summer range. His father, Carl, was crushed by a brick wall on a construction site when Thurl was a baby and slipped into a coma. His mother, Retha, scrubbed floors for a dollar an hour and worked the graveyard shift at a hospital. When Thurl took Sindi to his childhood home, he showed her a bullet hole in the wall. As his high school coach, Ernie Welch, recalls, Bailey crossed all lines, racially and socially. "He was all groups." Then, as now, Bailey filled his calendar with activities.
Sindi's family was staunch Mormon all three of her brothers served church missions, and her father, John, a rancher and the high school basketball coach, was the local bishop. "That's where my mom tried to shoot at my dad." The Bailey children themselves called police to their home for domestic disturbances, with Carl being hauled off in handcuffs. That's why she worked graveyard." Thurl was a straight-laced athlete-musician-scholar who was bused to a white high school as part of the federally mandated busing program. He became the school's first black student body president.Their backgrounds couldn't have been more different.